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A Short History of Mining and Mining Technology

Mining can be described as a process where you physically remove minerals, rock, or ore from the earth. This includes underground mining and surface mining. Mining technology has been around for centuries and has changed over that time in several ways.

Discoveries through archaeological finds gives proof that mining has actually been around since prehistoric times. People in the Stone Age would dig for flint in order to make things like scrapers, knives and arrowheads. Then from 8000 to 2000 BC there were actual shafts that were dug up to 330 feet deep into softer rock deposits in both Britain and France in order to mine for flint. The oldest mine in the world is said to have been dug around 4100 BC in Swaziland. There they dug for hematite that contained ochre, which they then would use as body paint in their burial ceremonies.

Gold is probably one of the first metals man ever mined for from stream beds in sand and gravel. Then there were the gold mines of Nubia which were among the biggest and most extensive mines of any in Ancient Egypt. Then there was copper that was soon discovered through mining, which was one of the first metals man learned to shape and it was mined by Egypt in the Sinai Peninsula back in 3000 BC, silver soon followed that and at one time was actually more valuable to people of that time than gold. People discovered lead around 2500 BC in ancient Troy. Romans were able to increase mining by building aqueducts in order to bring water to the mines that powered simple forms of machinery.

In the Middle Ages rock and soft ore was mined by hand with a pick and the harder rock and ore was mined with hammers, wedges or heat. They would pile logs up at the rock face and then set them on fire. The heat would then cause the rocks to crack. In 1627 black powder was first used in Slovakia.

The mining technology really did not change much until the invention of mechanical drills that were powered by compressed air and those were invented in the first part of the 1800's. Holes were drilled and then loaded with dynamite. Other kinds of mining technology was discovered in the 1800's that increased production greatly.

Mining underground became a necessity when ore got so deep that it made removing top rock nearly impossible. This type of mining was a lot more expensive and a lot more dangerous. An underground mine's first step is to sink a shaft to a depth that is a little below the deepest part of the planned mine. Then there are horizontal openings dug along the shaft to get the ore.

Mining technology of today has advanced to a point where the underground mines can be at depths of 12,000 feet and surface mines can be as deep as 3000 feet. Some of the deepest mines in the world are in South Africa where they get as deep as 12,100 feet.

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